Indeed, it’s virtually impossible to think of any of the M&C Saatchi founders (maybe less so Moray MacLennan?) vouchsafing such behaviour. Perhaps that’s why M&C Saatchi Group’s acquisition of Lean Mean Fighting Machine and its subsequent absorption along with 40-plus staff into the London ad agency seemed such a "knock me down with a feather" moment. Nonetheless, after a quick whiff of the smelling salts, this unlikely partnership seems also to offer such incredibly exciting possibilities.
On paper, you wouldn’t put the two agencies in any way near each other – the irreverence (to use that cursed word) of the Camden-based digital shop, famed for its ability to push the boundaries while also not taking advertising too seriously (evident in Dave Bedwood’s penis-related stunt last year), and the blue-chip stuffed shirts and safe hands of Golden Square. But this is a deal that, managed properly, could be beneficial for both and, crucially, to clients’ business.
Certainly for M&C Saatchi, it gives the agency an interesting edge as well as fresh and, dare we say, unusual perspectives on digital advertising (which already makes up 40 per cent of the group’s revenue) and access to a pretty solid list of clients, the biggest of which is Unilever. The importance of this after a period of upheaval at the London ad agency, which has seen both Dixons and Direct Line depart, is apparent while LMFM’s ability to bring some fun to a shop that has looked a bit glum is surely welcome.
Lean Mean Fighting Machine's ability to bring some fun to a shop that has looked a bit glum is surely welcome
For LMFM, the advantages are clearer – after ten years as an independent and with most of its digital peer group now sold, there wasn’t much further to go without the global reach that M&C Saatchi provides. What was once a fun lifestyle business probably needed some maturity, as the likeable founders realise that it’s difficult to continue playing the enfants terribles as middle age approaches for both themselves and their agency.
But away from the client lists and the complementary skills, it is the distinct entrepreneurial culture of LMFM that should be welcomed at Golden Square. Other than M&C Saatchi’s founders, there is only really the group chief executive, Lisa Thomas, who has started her own business among the senior management now that Walker Media has been decoupled.
The LMFM boys (and they are mainly boys) move in with the rather more feminine M&C Saatchi Group team next month.
As long as M&C Saatchi isn’t allowed to strangle the distinctiveness of the LMFM founders with its own vice-like grip, it is hard to envisage a more fascinating combination.